Cowboys faces anxious wait after derby defeat to Broncos

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Brisbane Broncos left North Queensland Cowboys' chances of reaching the NRL finals in the balance with a 20-10 derby victory at 1300SMILES Stadium on Thursday.

A win over their rivals would have guaranteed the injury-hit Cowboys a top-eight finish, but they were outscored by four tries to two in their final match of the regular season in Townsville.

Paul Green's side are seventh in the ladder, level on points with eighth-placed Manly Sea Eagles and two ahead of St George Illawarra Dragons - who face Penrith Panthers and Canterbury Bulldogs respectively this weekend.

The Broncos sit second and are assured of a top-three finish, but have concerns over Darius Boyd and Tevita Pangai Junior heading into the finals after they sustained hamstring injuries.

Wayne Bennett's men silenced the crowd with three first-half tries in the space of 13 minutes, Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima causing mayhem.

Brisbane hit the front when Matt Gillett took a clever pass out of the back of the hand from James Roberts following some Milford magic to score the opening try 14 minutes in.

Brisbane increased their lead when Roberts went under the posts after getting on the end of a perfectly weighed grubber from the influential Kodi Nikorima, who laid another try soon after with a towering kick which Jordan Kahu plucked expertly to dot down.

Gavin Cooper's converted try reduced the deficit to 14-6 at half-time, Boyd leaving the field just before the break clutching his hamstring.

Adam Blair powered his way over for a fourth Broncos try just past the hour-mark and the game was over as a contest by the time Kyle Feldt touched down right at the end.